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It is arguably one of the most remarkable success stories in Australian sport.

The Big Bash League, launched in 2011, is now a regular feature of the Australian summer.

With solid crowds, massive TV viewership figures and the successful launch of the WBBL in 2015 the competition is going from strength to strength.

The US-based Forbes Magazine said it is "changing the professional sports paradigm", and negotiations are underway on a significant new TV rights deal.

Assistant Professor in Sports Management, Dr Olan Scott, puts the achievement down to an alignment of priorities.

"They've sort of copied that North American sporting model," he said.

"It's entertainment first, sport second."

With that success has come calls for growth and change, particularly expanding the competition beyond its current eight-team format.

Rachael Haynes watches the ball after playing to the leg side against the Renegades in their WBBL match at North Sydney Oval.

Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide are all represented in the BBL — but cities like Canberra, Geelong, Fremantle and Townsville are seeking a slice of the action.

But the game's administrators are resisting the calls for now, warning early expansion is a path littered with notable failures.

Testing new waters

The BBL has this year come under new management, with former PepsiCo marketing executive Kim McConnie appointed chief executive.

She lists her priorities as growing the WBBL, and continuing to develop hard-core fan bases around the existing clubs.

Expansion is not being ruled out, but the time is not right just yet.

Michael Klinger raises his bat to the WACA ground

"We're always going to keep an open mind, we know that there's a lot of appetite across the country to have BBL teams," she said.

"Which we find fantastic, it shows there is interest in BBL much broader than where we're playing today.

"But we're really focused on the next couple of seasons – and really building up the markets we already have."

A chief executive with a strong marketing background is not a surprising move.

Cricket Australia developed the BBL with the guidance of the Chicago-based Property Consulting Group, who also work with competitions like the UFC.

Ms McConnie said part of their hesitancy in rushing into growth is the failure of other competitions in their own expansion plans.

The A-League, Super Rugby and National Basketball League are among many to expand and struggle, with new teams forming and folding.

Sydney Sixers celebrate WBBL wicket

Ms McConnie said there was demand among fans for a bigger Big Bash — but they were responding with a longer season for now.

"We want to make sure that we are giving them the more games that they want, before we jump too fast into expansion," she said.

"There's lots of examples of where leagues have expanded too fast, and that's caused them some pain."

That is not to say the game is not making moves into new markets — games are being taken to Launceston, Geelong, Alice Springs and Canberra.

The Canberra fixture, scheduled for late January, has already sold out.

Competition 'ready' argue potential bidders

David Kelly, who is spearheading Geelong's bid for a Big Bash team, argues the time for growth is now.

"It's ready to expand, expand at least by one if not by two teams," he said.

"Geelong region, Victoria is certainly for its own team."

It is a sentiment echoed in the ACT, where local businessman Mark McConnell is leading the Canberra bid.

Mr McConnell said they are ready whenever Cricket Australia is, but the sooner the better.

"When we're told the process has started, we'll be ready," he said.

"If that's in six months' time, if that's in two years' time, it doesn't matter."

One of the most commonly raised risks is diluting talent — spreading high-quality players too thin across the competition, and reducing the standard of play.

Dr Olan Scott said it was something that must be avoided in the Big Bash.

"Perhaps the demand from Network 10 to show all the games might lessen, or fans will start to not attend games, and that might become problematic," he said.

Original Article

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